Here again is the aerial photo of Union City, taken in 1950. I’ll be using it to refer to building locations in this episode. Now we’re getting to some of the businesses I remember personally shopping in as a child.
#5 / 201 N. Columbia St. (NW corner of Columbia and Pearl)
Kirshbaum’s always sat like a big mother hen on the corner of Columbia and Pearl streets. In 1865 Raphael Kirshbaum opened a general merchandise store one door north of this building; then in 1876 the big building was constructed. In 1934 some of the departments were “dry goods and draperies . . . hosiery and lingerie . . . ready to wear . . . floor coverings . . . shoes” [taken from an article in the Union City Evening Times]. I personally remember the store still having many of those things in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Shopping here was more for adults, with housegoods as opposed to kid’s toys, but I went there sometimes with my mother. I specifically remember us buying a shirt for Dad there once, and flipping through the wrapped dress shirts that were sitting upright in divided wooden bins on the left side of the store. The staircase in the middle seemed huge to me; it was ornate, and of dark, stained wood, with no carpeting then.
Look at this wonderful early picture of a parade in Union City. Notice the folks sitting in the windows of this great building (far left) to watch the parade. The highest decorative top piece has since been removed. Notice also some of the other shops that are still the early frame structures; not every building was brick and solidly attached to the others yet.
You have to appreciate the splendor of this store. Other businesses had goods for sale on the ground floor, and often living quarters upstairs, or perhaps office space for a dentist or lawyer. The Kirshbaum building was a BIG department store, with merchandise on 3 floors! And the only elevator in town.
Today the building has been rescued by the Preservation Society, and currently houses an antiques shop. It’s STILL beautiful.
#8 / 212? W. Pearl St.
The Grand Theater
In the 1950’s there were two movie theaters in town, and both were on Pearl Street, just a few stores apart. One was the Miami Theater, which was already out of business by the time I was of an age to remember (in the early 60’s). The other was the Grand Theater, which my sister and I went to.
It’s from the most cobwebby parts of my mind that I can still bring up an image of the interior of the Grand Theater, though the building itself had a physical presence all through my childhood.
Outside, the front had an open area like a covered porch. The ticket booth was front and center, with a walk-through on either side. There were movie posters on each side of the booth that advertised what was showing. Inside, the lobby was a bit narrower, with offices on the left and a concession stand along the wall on the right. Then straight ahead was a set of wide, carpeted stairs with double doors at the top that led into the theater itself. The floor of the theater was slanted down, toward the screen. I believe it had those thick, velvety curtains around the screen, and that’s about all I remember. It was so safe back then that your parents could drop you off at the door, or you could ride your bike, and watch the movie alone or with a friend, and no one thought anything amiss if you were there without parents.
In 1852 the first hotel on the Indiana side was built on this site; it was called The Forest House. It sat at the head of Broadway Street, which was supposed to be one of the two largest streets in town. It was a hotel that got a lot of business from folks coming in by train. Later, there was a building there called the Pythian Opera House; it was partially destroyed by fire. Charles Cadwallader, who was the mayor of Union City from 1886 to 1888, rebuilt it and called it the Cadwallader Theater. In the photo below you can see that name up high on the side (“Theater” is clearly seen, but above that, in the shadows, you can barely read “Cadwallader”). It was later called the Union Grand Theater, then simply The Grand. (By the way, there is a Cadwallader Street across from the high school, no doubt named after Charles or perhaps his father Nathan, who was a banker in town and a state senator.)
The Grand stopped showing movies around 1968, and the ground level had other businesses. There had been some old dressing rooms upstairs, and they were converted into apartments. In 2002 a fire in one of those apartments damaged the building enough that it had to be demolished.